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He received a two-month prison sentence Thomas Hughes appeared in the High Court after he attacked his wife with his fists and a brush. Some members of the judiciary felt that the system of fining was inadequate in dealing with wife-beating. It was not only friends who supported wife-beaters. The press embarked on a process of educating and advising victims in ways to reform men and thereby avoid abuse rather than disseminating ideas to men about moral authority and self-restraint.

Victims were blamed for the violence they endured because of their perceived inability to demonstrate the dominant conception of femininity and this provided acceptable provocations for the press to justify male violence. Although there is some evidence of growing intolerance to wife-assault, the law in practice and the law in theory diverged significantly, while the discursive practices of the judiciary and the media continued to favour female provocation rather than contributing to a discourse that promoted the adoption of a reasonable non-violent masculine identity Feminists demanded the vote for women so that they might effect legislative change that would offer women greater protection within marriage and from marital violence In response, middle-class men intensified the dissemination of the discourse that identified wife-beating with working-class men.

Furthermore, feminists were compelled to accept the preface that wife-beating was a working-class problem in return for male support for their demands for legislative changes to improve the position of women within marriage In the Scotsman responded to feminist demands to have the lash used on men who beat their wives bydemonising the wives rather than the wife beaters. They reported that,. Many are cursed with drunken shrews whose reckless waste, rough tongue and ever-ready arm provoke him to strike. These are the loving ladies who will shelter behind the lash.

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Such sluts would be ready enough to avail themselves of the proposed amendment At this time feminist renewed demands for the vote to redress wife-abuse through protective legislation and for the use of the lash against violent husbands. In Glasgow City Council voted to memorialise the Government to grant Scotland the power to use the lash for these purposes, suggesting that there was a hardened approach to inter-personal violence. However, the only category of crime which was deemed to require previous convictions before the lash would be used, in this case three previous convictions, was wife-beating What is also significant is that when Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh and Aberdeen City Councils debated the use of the lash the only disagreement over its use was on whether it should be used against men convicted of wife-beating at all The actions of the Councils also caused considerable controversy amongst the public, the press and members of the judiciary.

No man who is a man becomes the ruffianly husband and father at once Nor does he become a beastly drunkard as soon as he is married A postscript was added,. Nine out of ten cases could be avoided if wives exercised skill and patience. Wives were also advised that they should persuade their husbands not to consume alcohol This particular discourse indicates that there were some attempts to disseminate the middle-class construction of gender identities but that the discourse which circulated reflected earlier Victorian conduct literature aimed at women on how to reform a husband rather than at men on how to reform their own behaviour However, the perceived provocation by the shrew, slattern, or drunken wife who drove her spouse to drink prevailed in Scotland and was made worse by the psychology which identified male drunkenness with a form of diminished responsibility ensuring that in a considerable number of assault cases it was alcohol or the victim that was blamed rather than the perpetrator.

While the statistics are questionable, clearly there existed a widespread belief that the problem of violent behaviour was alcohol consumption and these perceptions influenced judicial discourse and the penalties violent men received. James Monaghen stood trial for assaulting his wife with a sweeping brush causing her death. Although his wife was sober on the day she was killed it was claimed that she was of drunken habits.

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Marital Violence: An English Family History, 1660-1857

Based on this evidence the judge decided that the culpability lay with the deceased women not the accused. Monaghan was sentenced to nine months in prison In at the High Court, Lord Salvesen presided over the case of a man who was found guilty of beating his wife to death in a sustained all-night attack. His defence was provocation and diminished responsibility due to drunkenness. The defendant maintained that he had attacked his wife because he had found her drunk. The accused also admitted to being drunk and when a seventy-eight-year-old woman remonstrated him for ill-treating his wife he attacked her breaking her breast bone.

This suggests the Scottish judiciary did not promote the more ordered, rational and non-violent masculinity by their reluctance to accept provocation and drunkenness as mitigating in the crime of wife-beating. Between and the annual reports of the Prison Commissioners provide statistics on the number of men sent to prison having been convicted of wife assault but thereafter cutbacks due to the post-war recession resulted in all assaults been grouped into one category. Breach of the Peace and Drunk and Disorderly Behaviour were used as alternatives to assault charges because it was easier to obtain a conviction and this possibility was extended after the Summary Jurisdiction Act Scotland.

It also gave Sheriffs greater powers of mitigation including the right to allow persons found guilty of crimes to be dismissed or admonished. Regardless of changes in the law the graph below indicates that the level of prosecution for wife-beating remained relatively stable and that changes in the law had a more profound effect on the rate of prosecution of men who assaulted individuals other than their spouse. Graph 2 : Percentage of the total number of individuals imprisoned after conviction for assault and assault on wives by husbands at the Scottish Summary Courts, Moreover, prosecutions for wife-beating also differ significantly from the pattern of prosecutions for male assaults on individuals other than their wives.

Although generally men who assaulted individuals other than their wives were dealt with more severely the pattern is more variable. A range of factors may explain this including the influence economic factors, the possibility of responses to media panics, especially over youth in the wake of the Boer War as well as concerns over public rather private violence as wife-beating had increasingly become. This occurred at all levels of the court system.


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This was extended in the s and s at a time the Scottish press identified an increase in extreme violence directed at wives. Yet, as Lambertz shows, by the early twentieth century, men of the working-classes had become part of the political nation with voting power.

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World War I reinforced concerns about the quality and quantity of the race and resulted in marriage being actively promoted The promotion of marriage could moderate condemnation of wife-beating but preventing the breakdown of the family was a priority that arguably could also have resulted in more condemnation of wife-beaters. Rather than condemning wife-beating, the agencies of social welfare in Scotland continued to contribute to the discourse that drunkenness was the cause of marital conflict and this corresponded with attempts by the judiciary and the social services to downplay wife-beating and to mend broken marriages For example the Scottish National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children dealt with the victims of domestic violence including wives, but they made it clear that their principle aim was to safeguard the family from breakdown In The Scottish Justices and Magistrates Association called for the establishment of family courts because the number of women seeking separation orders on the grounds of physical cruelty alarmed them.

The proposed courts would facilitate reconciliation through the use of social workers which could not be done in the criminal courts because the judiciary were unable to go beyond the strictly legal definition of the law Thus it could be used to prevent family breakdown by reducing the number of wife-beating given prison sentences. However, it was not merely the young offenders who benefited from probation. Clause II of the act allowed probation to be given to first offenders whose crime warranted a sentence of less than two years. Graph 4 : Adult men [over 21 years] as a percentage of all individuals who were given probation orders for assault, housebreaking and theft in Scotland, In the s a Glasgow wife-beater had received probation twice amongst the punishment he had accrued for his five convictions for wife-beating.

He was sentenced to thirty days in prison on his sixth appearance in court, because after spending his wages on alcohol he attacked his wife and assaulted a police officer William Davie was sentenced to six months in prison after he appeared at Glasgow High Court having killed his wife by cutting her throat with a razor and attacking her with a metal pan. However, she had brought another man home and thirty neighbours had signed a petition testifying to his previous good behaviour Thomas Cameron was sentenced to thirty days in prison when he was found guilty of striking his wife over the head with a hatchet while intoxicated.

This in turn influenced considerations of the social costs of wife-beating and contributed to continuities in older conceptions of masculinity. There is some evidence of discursive disapproval of wife-beating but changes in the law in theory that should have offered women greater protection from violent men were not applied in practice.


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  • In addition, a range of provocations from a wife were open to violent men that reduced the risk of harsh punishment and this mitigated considerations of the social costs of wife-beating throughout the period. Exacerbating this situation were the changes in the judicial approach to wife-beating in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries which added further layers of procedure before men were convicted and imprisoned for wife-beating.

    These factors ensured significant numbers of men from all classes in Scotland fiercely upheld traditional conceptions of masculinity based on violence and workplace reputations rather than family and community ones. Archer, J. Bailey, J. Bauer, C. Bingham, A. Carter Wood, J.

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      Tawney, R. Wiener, M. For contemporaries this was an issue that raised central questions about family life: the extent of men's authority over other family members, the limitations of women's property rights, and the problems of access to divorce and child custody. Opinion about the legitimacy of marital violence continued to be divided but by the nineteenth century ideas about what was intolerable or cruel violence had changed significantly. This accessible study will be invaluable reading for anyone interested in gender studies, feminism, social history and family history. Marital Violence Exposing the 'hidden' history of marital violence between the Restoration and the mid-nineteenth century.

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